Wednesday Oct 18, 2006

Corporate Blogging

Interesting article on CNN/Money about corporate blogging that's done right and done wrong. I'm not sure why some companies are getting themselves into trouble with this form of communication. It seems really simple to me, but hey, we all make mistakes so it's hard to be hard on someone attempting to be more transparent. And I understand the recent PR example quite well because I know that business and those errors speak for themselves. For a nice review of that one, check out Dave Taylor's piece from the other day. It's a piece I tend to agree with a great deal .

Sun, on the other hand, seems to be just surfing right along with blogging. I think I have a theory as to why -- Sun grew from the community so it understands how to behave within a community, and we have a large number of engineers participating in communities of all kinds -- some Sun run, some run by other vendors, some run by standards bodies, and some by foundations. All these interactions take place on open mail lists or forums. So, when blogging came along it was really nothing new, and people seemed ready and eager to get going. It was just a new way of doing what they had been doing in the past -- communicating openly and honestly. Not perfectly, but openly and honestly for sure. And that can take you a long way.

Monday Sep 25, 2006

Stats and Quotes on OpenSolaris

There are some really nice quotes in this article about OpenSolaris -- Google testing Sun's OpenSolaris, sources say. There is a lot of activity around Solaris, Solaris Express, and OpenSolaris now. And there's lots of Solaris out there for people to choose from based on what the need is. Very nice. And a very nice article, too. Well balanced.

A note on statistics: There's a part in this article where the writer compares OpenSolaris to Linux and OpenOffice -- the implication being that we're not as successful in building a developer community around OpenSolaris. Ah. Let's see. Linux has been open for how long? And OpenOffice how long? And OpenSolaris? Ok. But the larger point is expressed by Stephen Hahn: "Why do all open source communities have to look the same?" Hahn said. "I would rather have 1,000 developers working together than 12 different Solaris distributions." I agree. And the stats we release are not intended to be compared to anyone. In fact, whenever anyone asks me who I'm comparing OpenSolaris to I always respond that I'm comparing OpenSolaris to OpenSolaris. A friend of mine in PR laughed at me for that, but I'm serious. I wouldn't even know how to compare OpenSolaris to any other community. Would you? Considering all the variables, I mean. Everyone's so different. Different licenses. Different business models. Different technology. Different development methodologies. Different leadership frameworks. Different time periods. Different geographies. Now, I look to a variety of other communities to learn about community building, sure, but I could care less about comparing stats and then drawing conclusions. But even more practically, I can hardly even keep up with OpenSolaris let alone try to figure out who has more of this or that. That's probably the real reason.

Monday Sep 04, 2006


Interesting -- Microsoft's PR agency admits it doesn't "get" blogs!. What's not to get about blogging this late in 2006? Just blog. The lessons are obvious, immediate, painful, humbling, powerful, exciting, and [insert your favorite lesson here]. But you can't understand blogging from the outside looking in, so don't bother trying. In this case, understanding comes through direct experience, not observation. Which means you have to blog. Only then will your opinions change or at least be based on something substantial. And if you hate it, that's fine. It's not for everyone. But who am I to talk. I "don't get" Web 2.0, so maybe WaggEd shouldn't listen to me, eh?

Sunday Sep 03, 2006

The Biology of Marketing

In Free Market Economy? John Dodds comments on an article talking about the new viral marketing -- Beyond Viral: Using The Web To Nurture 'Contagious Behavior' Among Customers. It's a fascinating little article with a few words that just jump off the page and gag me.

I like John's position that too often people think of "marketing" as simply "promotion" when in reality the field is far more strategic than that. I've been guilty of this incorrect perception on occasion as well. But I think that all too often marketing deserves this mischaracterization, and in high tech Silicon Valley this is so easy to substantiate. So, it goes both ways. However, I've always said that really talented marketers are worth their weight in gold because they are strategic and bridge disparate groups. And because of that unique position they can many times spot new possibilities for connections that others simply miss. It's wonderful to observe this. Great marketers don't get lost in message making, too. They are strategic by nature, and they see marketing as the thread that ties together the entire business.

I see the intent of the article that John is pointing to, and I support the direction that those marketers are moving. On some levels they are improving and that's good. But what's up with all of these biological references? When marketers use terms like "contagiousness" or "infection" or "viral" or "seed" to describe any marketing activity, they are doing two things: (1) talking to themselves and (2) insulting everyone else. Yes, I know, some really famous marketers use these terms and get lots of attention in the process, but this is exactly why marketing gets bad publicity from those outside the field. Many people feel those terms articulate an attempt to manipulate customers, or in this case to manipulate the powerful dynamics of emerging communities of customers. A good example of this from software marketing is the term "developer capture" that I hear from time to time. It's insulting. Developers don't want to be captured. Do they? I don't think so.

I much prefer terms like community building or facilitation or engagement. Ok, they are somewhat more boring than infecting someone with a virus so they are highly contagious, but what can I say. I'm a boring guy and I don't like being sick. Regardless of the terms used, though, what's most important is that the language reflect the concept of participation, not manipulation. And that's what I'm not getting from this article. The issue is inches away, though. I can feel it. But the comments in the piece still represent marketing as being on the outside of the community, not right in the middle if it all. At least community dynamics are recognized, though, so that's a great improvement over a few years ago.

Wednesday Aug 16, 2006

IBM Attacks OpenSolaris -- Again

Well, there they go again. IBM kicked OpenSolaris again -- IBM says Sun's open source strategy lacks support. This latest effort comes to us from LinuxWorld in San Francisco courtesy of Scott Handy, who also attacked OpenSolaris last year, and Dan Frye. Their statements about our community only represent their own ignorance because their rhetoric is so easily undermined. It's a shame, though, don't you think? IBM should be applauded for their efforts in the Apache, Linux, and Eclipse communities (and others, I'm sure), but I'm having a difficult time praising them since they seem so mean spirited toward OpenSolaris. We're not going away, guys. In fact, we're only getting bigger and stronger every day. But actually, from a community point of view, I think we've been somewhat humble this first year. We are trying to build a community that leads with technology, not spin. Maybe that's just my hope, but I think we've largely done a pretty good job of respecting others.

I don't know very many people at IBM, but I did have the opportunity to interact with some IBM engineers one time, and they were absolute professionals. Oh, well. What can I say. I commented on a previous attack from IBM's Ross Mauri last week. Most of that applies here as well. Just to keep the continuity going here ...

Saturday Aug 05, 2006

IBM's Ross Mauri

Ross Mauri, general manager of IBM's System p group, takes a shot at OpenSolaris in a Q&A interview with Cnet yesterday -- Newsmaker: Firing up IBM's Unix business. Jump to the very last question on page two for this little gem:

Do you ever consider open-sourcing AIX the way Sun is open-sourcing Solaris?
Mauri: No, we're not. I think that OpenSolaris is a little bit of a game Sun is playing to try to get good PR. But I don't think it's in the spirit of true open source.

We have been very happy to get directly involved and contribute to Linux and Apache and the Eclipse Foundation. We're not going to open-source AIX. It's best run on the current model, where we have the expertise. We enhance it. We work closely with our customers to listen to their requirements. But in the end, it's best that we control that source code.

Any substantiation for any of those references to OpenSolaris, Ross? I love the "in the spirit of true open source" bit, though. It's code for those afraid of being direct. Whatever.

This response fascinates me, though. Rhetorically, Ross has himself all boxed in here, which can easily happen when you're distracted by attacking others. Remember, competitive attacks are more difficult to pull off than most people realize. I've only met a few people who could deliver them effectively, too.

Stephen Shankland (the reporter) didn't ask Ross if Sun was playing PR games with OpenSolaris, and he didn't ask if OpenSolaris was "true" or not. The emphasis of the question was on AIX, not OpenSolaris. He asked if IBM had considered opening AIX like Sun had opened Solaris. Pretty clean question. Ok, you could argue that the question may presuppose that IBM should open AIX like Sun opened Solaris, but it's pretty subtle and easily ignored. But even leaving out OpenSolaris, it's a perfectly logical question to ask given IBM's investment in Linux and AIX.

Anyway, instead of answering the question by focusing on AIX development and IBM's customers and engineers, Ross uses the opportunity to first attack OpenSolaris by saying it's a "PR" move and a "game" and not "true" open source. Huge mistake. Now he has to go back to AIX and answer the substance of the question. But to be credible, everything he says should be consistent with the reasoning behind what he said while attacking OpenSolaris. This is where he drowns. In an effort to substantiate himself, Ross provides examples of communities that his company contributes to, which by itself is fine. However, juxtaposed against the untrue OpenSolaris,  we are led to believe that Linux, Apache, and Eclipse are the "true" open source. Perhaps. But people usually compare OpenSolaris with Linux, and I think that's what Ross intended here but decided to toss in Apache and Eclipse for good measure. Who knows. The trouble is that he actually undermines his own statement about OpenSolaris since all three communities he cites are licensed differently, and two of them don't fit with what Ross appears to mean by "true" open source. And if that's not what he means and Apache and Eclipse are also "true" open source, then OpenSolaris should also be described as "true" by that definition as well. I mean, is Mozilla "true" open source in Ross's opinion? I don't know. Maybe not.

The result is that Ross demonstrates his own lack of knowledge about OpenSolaris -- PR is actually not that involved, it's an engineering community from top to bottom, it's open source as specified by OSI (they don 't offer a "true" category as of yet), and we don't play games with the company's core technology. Sorry, Ross. You don't know what you are talking about, and this is a PR disaster for you. But delicious nonetheless.

Now, Ross is probably a smart guy. He probably runs a pretty large organization at IBM, and you can't do that without being smart. So, I can respect him for that. But even smart guys can sound foolish when they lack competitive rhetorical skills and get distracted by attacking others. None of this would have happened had Ross simply focused on IBM and AIX and ignored OpenSolaris. However, I do think he has to work on his AIX/Linux answer, though. Although IBM has consistently stated that its strategy with AIX is to keep development closed (which is a perfectly fine business decision), I think the reason Ross offers undermines his statements supporting the benefits of open source development. I mean, open source is supposedly good for Linux, Apache, and Eclipse, but it's simultaneously bad for AIX because the AIX code needs "control" by the "expertise" at IBM? I don't get that. And OpenSolaris? Well, that's so low it's a "game" not even worthy of being "true" so it's dismissed with contempt.

But maybe I'm reading too much into it.

Tuesday Jul 25, 2006

Helping Doc

Thank you, Doc Searls, for rescuing markets from marketing -- Markets without Marketing. The two need not have anything to do with each other now.  I've always disagreed with the assertion that marketing owns markets. One has lived forever and will continue to thrive despite the other and go on to serve new generations, while the other is no longer effective and will not survive much longer (at least in its present form) because it doesn't understand what the other one is. Practiced traditionally, marketing many times does more does more harm than good and uses entirely too many resources in the process. Really great marketers have always been able to transcend marketing, though, and those guys are extremely valuable to any organization or any community.

In Doc's article, he's looking for some examples of great marketing in this new age of open for his talk at OSCON in Portland. I'm not in marketing, but I can think of many examples from the OpenSolaris project. But I wouldn't term them as "marketing" because they were all done by a mixture of program managers, engineers, executives, marketers, and non-Sun developers and system administrators. Also, they were all based in simple, open, and direct communications. Messages were rejected. Focus groups were rejected. Press releases were largely silent. Top down dictatorial management was absent. There were very few filters, and almost none as the project matured. Engineering led the effort, and engineers made all the important decisions since the program was designed to engage developers. Interactions were done in the open in a variety of forums -- conferences, blogs, mail lists, customer briefings -- and were diversified and distributed horizontally, not vertically. Launch activities were discussed with the community on open lists, and the engineers led the launch in every important way with literally hundreds of blogs. Anniversary activities were planned and implemented openly as well. Highly technical SCM discussions and evaluations are taking place in the open as well as governance and development discussions. Again, no filters. Now, was it all perfect? No. We got more open as we learned and experimented, and we got better at it as we went along. But was it a big step for a big corporation? Absolutely. Was it marketing? No. But did marketing participate? Yes. And that's the key. Participation in a market no longer takes place through a funnel. It's distributed and multidimensional, and there's probably no need to call it "marketing" any more. 

I've written a lot about this since I started blogging and working on the OpenSolaris project, and my views have evolved. To me, this is all about business, and good business is all about basic common sense. Every entrepreneur I've ever met in every industry knows this instinctively. Hell, the newspaper boy knows it. It's all about talking openly and honestly to a customer or developer or parter or whoever to build a relationship based on trust and performance so both sides benefit equally. That's it. No fancy "social software" tools needed. No messages needed. No spinning needed. It's not based on open source (I saw it in construction two decades ago). It's not based on the Internet (basic face-to-face networking far pre-dates technology ... ask any craftsman in the world). It's just good business and basic common sense, that's all, and the best marketers know that.

Saturday Jul 08, 2006

Connected Capitalism

I love the term "Connected Capitalism" coined by Simon Phipps to describe how "open source works by everyone contributing what they want without compulsion and using what they need without restriction -- as a counterpoint to people who try to call open source 'communism'. Think Benkler."

That's a jam packed Simon quote from a comment he left to a recent James Governor blog about press coverage on Simon's keynote at OSBC a couple of weeks back. Ben Rockwood also has some interesting and valuable thoughts on the subject. Ever since I tripped over open source here at Sun about six years ago, I've been fascinated -- mostly because the culture reminded me of things I had seen in the past but couldn't really fully participate in. There is so much to talk about, but I'll just carve out my favorite little bit from Simon's comment -- connected capitalism.

I see a nice consistency between capitalism and open source. If open source were really about communism, as some detractors assert, I'd dump it pretty quickly. Not because of any political belief (I don't waste time on such issues), but because it would be incapable of providing me enough value so I wouldn't want to contribute to it. I'm looking to earn a living with multiple and diverse streams of income but in a way that contributes to the community (whatever community), not detracts from the community like the robber barons of times past (and some present, I suppose). If I don't have the ability to get something out if it, I'm gone. It's that simple. Food is important. So is health insurance. I have a significant amount of experience with the medical community, and I'm determined to have enough money to pay for as many circumstances I can imagine. And a steady flow of cash well into retirement should come in handy as well. So, my perspective is especially economic and I'm getting more and more focused on that every day. It's my primary goal, in fact. But I've never been a believer in the zero sum game, either, so that's why I like the concept, culture, and dynamic of open source. It's the perfect solution.

As an economic system, capitalism has done a lot of good and certainly provides some pretty massive incentives for growth. It has some pretty big holes, though, and many people react negatively to the term. Perhaps because used alone it can sometimes connote "big" and "exclusive" and "exploitive" and the connections supporting it generally pervade insiders -- the special ones, the privileged ones, the rich ones, the ones who control things like Big Oil, Big Unions, Big Education, Big Agriculture, Big Banking, Big Construction, Big Shipping, Big Government, Big [insert your favorite big thing here]. So, if that's the reason someone doesn't like the term, I can understand it. And, for the most part, I agree. Those things bother me, too. Breaking into some of those entrenched industries without paying off the controlling parties is challenging. Those industries are not communities whose members openly welcome new contributors, that's for sure.

I tried to break into the construction industry in New York as a small business owner, and, boy, did I learn a lesson in, ah, capitalism. My goodness. It had nothing whatsoever to do with open competition or competing based on talent, better pricing, better service, better equipment, better ideas, or better innovation. Instead, it had everything to do with paying to play in a controlled market, and it represented an absolutely stunning destruction of innovation and inspiration. I had to pay to enter the kingdom of those who had gone before and who were carefully guarding the gate to their paradigm -- at all costs. The controllers viewed their game as zero sum for sure, and I didn't fit in very well at all. In my case, I ran into several powerful construction and trucking unions (I was non-union), dozens of well-connected contractors (I didn't have their money), many government agencies (I didn't have political connections), and a few other rather strange characters (I'd rather not talk about). At times, the lines supposedly separating these groups blended all too closely, which was confusing and unsettling at best. The experience was both disgusting and exhilarating, and everything I believe today about economics and politics I learned from those early battles in the construction business. Back then I worked with some well-meaning business people -- true entrepreneurs -- and I learned all about what creative, innovative, talented individuals could build and how easily a powerful, centralized, controlling group could take it all away -- sometimes violently -- because the leaders felt threatened. I came to believe that open competition terrified people who contributed so very little..

I've always wondered about this though. In capitalism, why can't the individual and the community (or company, government, or union, or school, etc) benefit simultaneously so the cycle is self referral? To me, open source goes a long way to solving this problem because the culture of that system openly welcomes new contributions from creative, innovative individuals anywhere -- and the more the better. This is not necessarily exclusive to open source software development; it's probably present in other engineering and scientific disciplines as well. I sure saw it at Tufts University where I worked for a few years with physicians, veterinarians, and a variety of researchers. Heck, I bet any true craftsman or artist in any field would get this concept of individual, contribution, community. In other words, the community benefits but so does the individual contributing. In fact, the more one contributes, the more one benefits. It's that whole "you get out of it what you put into it" thing, and it supports the notion of enlightened self interest, which Simon rightly explains can be a problematic term but one I have no problem with (other than the fact that I need to assert it much more often). So, you enrich the commons and all the individual people within the community managing the commons benefit as well, and those especially hard working people have a limitless opportunity at their fingertips. Opportunity is there for all but it's proportional to how hard one works and how much one contributes. And around it goes. Generally speaking, of course. And by "enrich" I don't necessarily mean only in pure monetary terms. Rich means many things to many people: money, reputation, connections, access to shared resources, conservation, safety, insurance, learning, skill development, contribution, feeling of well being, donations, participation, desire to help others, etc. Simon explains all this much better, of course, but I'm trying to understand it based on my past experiences and on my future plans.

Now, elements of this absolutely remind me of capitalism -- but a very, very special form of capitalism. It's called entrepreneurialism. Small capitalism, I guess. Capitalism for the little guy. Capitalism the way it should be. Capitalism where everyone is welcome to participate and dare and risk. Capitalism that the old capitalists and the old communists would both have a hard time dealing with. That's the kind of capitalism I like. I just call it entrepreneurialism because my perspective starts with an independent individual being able to take care of him/herself so as not to be a burden but to do so by being connected so contributions benefit all. I think small entrepreneurs understand this more than big capitalists do (yes I'm splitting hairs a bit here) because the entrepreneurs usually start small and depend heavily on connections to others for resources, whereas those big capitalists tend to rely more on buying their way around since they already have lots of resources. It's certainly not true in all cases, but that's what I've seen along my way.

So, when Simon puts "connected" in front of the term "capitalism" it gives the entire principle a new, de-centralized, individual, empowering feeling and that's something every entrepreneur can understand. Hard work, perseverance, talent, skill, opportunity, luck. Not for Big Enterprise, but for the individuals who can't help but dream of what's possible. In this context, the term "connected" is critically important because it implies rather directly that for all this to work one has to connect to the community and help manage the stuff in the commons. Connected also implies responsibility, and if you are connected to people rather than capital it's more important that you do the right thing, not necessarily the most profitable and selfish thing. It's the connection to the community that creates the opportunity to create individual value, and that's what has hooked me. It solves my problem. I can be entrepreneurial without being a robber baron. The elite wouldn't understand this because they are not connected to anyone other than elitists like themselves. Whatever economic system they use in whatever society they live tends to exploit the commons, not contribute to it, and over time that pisses people off on all sides of the political, economic, and social fence.

"Connected Capitalism" works well for me. And I've yet to see a more powerful expression of the entrepreneurial spirit than the dynamics of a thriving community. Have you?

Friday Jul 07, 2006

They Only Wanted Java?

I enjoy reading quotes by former Sun executives. I think I've seen these two quotes before, but they seem to pop up from time to time. And with Java opening, I bet we see a lot of extracurricular commentary this year. Should be great fun. Check these out ...

Then there's the debate over Java, the language used throughout the Web and corporate programming. "Java is the only thing people ever wanted them to open-source," says Peter Yared, a former Sun executive who's now heading up an open-source startup ActiveGrid. It's a question that several ex-Sun executives have scratched their heads over. Says former Sun executive and BEA Systems (BEAS) founder Bill Coleman, who now heads software startup Cassatt: "I personally think they should have done it years ago."

If that Yared quote up there accurately represents his real statement, Yared is totally wrong. More than a year before we opened Solaris, our team openly engaged hundreds of developers at customers, universities, and a variety of conferences around the world. People were pretty jazzed about a future with OpenSolaris. They offered valuable suggestions and expressed overwhelming support. Just so you know, Peter.

Monday Jun 19, 2006

"Much fanfare, but not much avail"

[Update & Correction: It was not Dave Rosenberg who made these statements below on which I'm commenting. It was Peter Yared. I guess I got confused by Dave's post. I thought he was summarizing and adding commentary to Peter's post. Apologies to Dave for the mistake.]

Dave Rosenberg writes about how he thinks open source has changed the business models of some big companies -- Big Company Behavior Patterns Around Open Source. This is how Sun is reacting -- according to Rosenberg, I mean:

We're Open, Too - Sun
"We're Open, Too" players open source their competing proprietary products long after a successful open source project has eclipsed their proprietary alternatives. Sun open sources their products in this way to much fanfare, but not much avail, examples include Solaris vs. Linux, NetBeans vs. Eclipse, SunONE Application Server vs. JBOSS, SPARC vs. x86, etc. This strategy is a stark contrast to the IBM "join the party" strategy, where IBM takes the best of their proprietary products and adds it to existing successful open source project like Linux.

Wrong on many fronts. Simon Phipps points out most of the errors in a comment to the original post. I couldn't find a permalink to comments in the blog, but you can easily find it off the main post. There are only two comments currently. Anyway, I wanted to point out a few other items ...

First ... we didn't release OpenSolaris "to much fanfare" as Rosenberg states. In fact, the truth is exactly the opposite, and anyone who knows anything about this project would know that. Last year we opened 10 million lines of code with one press release and a couple of hundred engineering blogs. That's it. There was no big advertising campaign or proclamations and all that crap. Instead, the engineers led the launch in absolutely every important way. And since then we've opened more code -- sixteen times -- with absolutely zero fanfare.

Early on, we intentionally understated the marketing, PR, and advertising on the project, and I've been a strong proponent of that strategy from the very beginning of the project. Not that we didn't want to get the word out -- far from it -- but more so because we wanted the project to gain credibility with OpenSolaris developers from the ground up, not from the top down with some billion dollar advertising campaign. We wanted to earn our credibility from the quality of our code and from the talents of our developers, not from the spin of our messages. Basically, we wanted to engage developers, not commentators. It's really that simple. Code comes first, not spin. Also, we were opening Solaris in stages, and we knew it would take time to not only release all the code and tools but to also build the community and the infrastructure for open development. That's all happening at the same time.

Now, however, the situation is changing. We have an enormous amount of code out there, the community is growing, and more infrastructure is in place. So I would expect -- and would support -- a stepped up marketing strategy that reflects our current position and direction. The engineering comes first, though. OpenSolaris is a developer program, not a marketing campaign.

Second ... the "but not much avail" comment is rude and dismisses the entire OpenSolaris community -- thousands of people working hard to build an innovative project we can all be proud of. An apology would be nice, don't you think?

Third ... Rosenberg says that we are opening our "competing proprietary products long after a successful open source project has eclipsed their proprietary alternatives." He then juxtaposes SPARC vs x86 as an example of this. Fascinating. I didn't know that OpenSPARC was in response to the previously open source x86 project. I must have missed that one.

Saturday Jun 17, 2006

CHEN on the Pod

Nice to hear Barb Heffner at CHEN PR talking up blogging on a recent podcast with Dana Gardner. Sun's bloggers came up in the conversation as well as the recent entry of the Sun PR team on BSC. Also, CHEN is now partnering with Dana Gardner to offer podcasting services. Cool. I'll be listening ...


Tuesday May 30, 2006

Correcting Cohen

Stuart Cohen, CEO of the Open Source Development Labs, wrote an editorial in BusinessWeek recently -- Sun's Big Open-Source Bet  -- that contained several inaccuracies about OpenSolaris. Stephen and Patrick responded to Cohen, but I thought I'd add my comments to correct Cohen as well.

First ...

Last year, Sun made its flagship operating system -- Solaris -- available as open source. Sort of. You see, Sun wrote its own open-source license. It's a license that many in the open-source community don't like, and with good reason. 


OpenSolaris is not "sort of" open source. It's open source as outlined by the Open Source Initiative (OSI) -- which was literally a core requirement for everyone on the project team before we even began opening the Solaris code. The license in question is the Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL). It was a new license last year, but Sun didn't go off in a corner and write it from scratch; instead, we modified an existing, already successful, already OSI-approved license -- the Mozilla Public License (MPL). The CDDL is not Sun's "own" open source license. Anyone can use it. It's a template license that can actually help consolidate many of the MPL derivatives that have developed over the years. Additionally, if "many in the open source community" don't like CDDL, as Cohen suggests, wouldn't it also logically follow that those same individuals have a problem with the MPL too? After all, the CDDL and the MPL are really very much alike (see redline diffs at the CDDL link above). Perhaps they do, but I generally don't hear very many people calling Mozilla's code "sort of" open source. Do you? Now, was the CDDL controversial with some in the open source community when it came out? Yes it was, but that's another issue altogether and has nothing to do with the fact that OpenSolaris is open source. For more on the license discussion from last year, you can see these links: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here.

Next ...

Unlike with Linux, all the rights to any changes to the source code for Solaris go back to Sun. So any developers contributing to Solaris are literally working for Sun for free.


If you change an existing CDDL file, your changes go back to the community -- not Sun. If you write a new file and license it under CDDL, it's community code -- not Sun's. If you write your own proprietary file and link that file to a community CDDL file, your proprietary file is yours -- not Sun's. CDDL code is shared in an open commons, which includes non-Sun developers mixing rather freely with Sun engineers. If people were "working for Sun for free" then how does the following list make any sense: SchilliX, Nexenta, BeleniX, marTux, the PowerPC port, the DTrace port to BSD, the ZFS port to FUSE/Linux and DragonFly BSD?

Next ...

In my experience, people will work for free when they see that work as contributing to the greater common good -- but not to the bottom line of a global computing vendor. This part of Sun's strategy escapes me.


That's not our strategy. I'm sure Sun's true strategy "escapes" Cohen, but that's only because he doesn't understand it. This is really just a rhetorical trap where a position is mischaracterized and then called into question. It's a common technique practiced for thousands of years and easily seen for what it is --  a unsubstantiated misrepresentation.

Next ...

Time will tell if Schwartz can build a viable software ecosystem and vibrant development community around this approach.


OpenSolaris is already a "vibrant development community" in its very first year, which is a huge accomplishment. We can demonstrate this quite clearly by contributions (code, documentation, scripts), open conversations that reach hundreds of thousands, thousands of participants, user groups, communities, projects, millions of lines of source code from multiple Solaris Consolidations, a published roadmap, non-Sun distributions, an open development process (draft), a published Charter, an open governance (draft, draft), and ports (DTrace, ZFS, PowerPC). And there is a lot of infrastructure coming that will help encourage even more community participation. I'd say that the OpenSolaris community has already built a fine foundation in its first year. Wouldn't you?

That's it.


Saturday May 27, 2006


Nicholas Carr pounds on Steve Rubel for his assertion that it's a good thing for companies to admit when their stuff isn't up to snuff. Rubel may go a bit far rhetorically when he says, "I like companies that say 'we suck'" but he does point to specific examples. It's the "sucks" part that jars. But Rubel is largely correct when he says, "Now that conversation is king it's critical that companies begin to have these honest discussions with their customers and do it out in the open." I can't argue with that. Carr does, though, and says:

Do companies actually pay for this kind of knuckleheaded advice? Who exactly crowned "conversation" king? A handful of self-absorbed bloggers banging away at their little keyboards? Conversation isn't king. Good products and services at fair prices are king - always were, always will be. Which would you rather do business with - a company that delivers great goods but has no interest in buttonholing you into some pathetic excuse for "a conversation," or a company that sells you crap but is great at conversing? Well, duh.

The last we thing we need is companies getting in touch publicly with their inner suckiness. Just give me something I want to buy and shut the hell up. I have enough friends.

So, whereas Rubel goes a bit far rhetorically, Carr goes even further but in the opposite direction. Both are wrong and both are right. If I strip out the hype in both blogs, there are plenty of elements I can agree with. I agree with Rubel that companies should have open conversations with customers. For instance, on the OpenSolaris project, we have 120 discussion forums where massive open conversations are taking place. All sides are benefiting from those discussions, and the product and process is improving as a result. But I also agree with Carr that conversations are not king and can not replace good products or services (though Rubel didn't say that they can). Now, Carr goes too far in seeing these as separate and conflicting issues, though. They can be directly related with good open conversations growing out of good products and services. The product/service is at the center (in our case it's source code), and people gather around in a community environment and collaborate primarily using tools that facilitate open conversations. No product is perfect, so open conversations help reveal weaknesses and areas for people to contribute and around you go.

What's so difficult to understand about all this? Nothing, really. Especially if you leave out the hype, which clouds good points made by both of these guys.


Tuesday May 16, 2006

JavaOne: NetBeans Day, Fireside Chat: Photos

I went to JavaOne in San Francisco today. Today was all about NetBeans. And what a turn out. Something like 1,300 people registered for this day of keynotes and technical sessions. I don't know how many people were actually there, but I waited in line a lot, that's for sure. And the keynote room was packed with guys standing all along the back wall several rows deep. It was amazing. Great to see. I used to do PR for the NetBeans guys a few years ago, and back then competitors and industry observers were telling Sun to just toss in the towel on NetBeans. Ha! The NetBeans community continues to grow and continues to impress, and I bet the NetBeans community is a major influence on the Java community as a whole.

The best part of the day was catching up with some people I know to talk about their experiences building communities. I try to observe other communities and learn from them. I figure, they've done all this before we have, so there's a great deal we can learn. People are always helpful, too, and I hope to return the favor some day.

Also cool was Rich Green and Jonathan Schwartz talking about open source Java. A pretty significant change in conversation, I 'd say.

I also went to the JavaOne Alumni Fireside Chat in the early evening, which is cool. It's basically an open Q&A. No presos. No messages. Just an open conversation with the most senior guys of Java.

Tomorrow and Wednesday, the OpenSolaris community has several things planned (Freedom Toaster, SVOSUG meeting, blogger party, booth demos). I'll take some pictures. If you are around, stop by the Sun booth. I'd love to meet.

Here are some snaps from today.
The full set on flickr.

JavaOne San Francisco 2006 JavaOne San Francisco 2006

JavaOne San Francisco 2006 JavaOne San Francisco 2006

JavaOne San Francisco 2006 JavaOne San Francisco 2006

JavaOne San Francisco 2006 JavaOne San Francisco 2006 JavaOne San Francisco 2006

JavaOne San Francisco 2006 JavaOne San Francisco 2006

JavaOne San Francisco 2006 JavaOne San Francisco 2006

JavaOne San Francisco 2006 JavaOne San Francisco 2006

There are more. The full set is on flickr.

Sun PR Starts Blogging

Congrats to Russ Castronovo and the Sun PR team. They started a group blog the other day -- On the Record. It will be good to see the PR team emerge and open up on I used to work on that team, so it's great to see more of my friends enter the blogosphere. There are some pretty good PR and marketing bloggers in the industry these days, and I expect the Sun PR team to join those ranks. This move marks yet another step in the opening of Sun as we all return to our roots as participants in the community.


Sunday May 14, 2006

Lots of Links

I've collected a lot of links lately. Most of these are OpenSolaris articles and blogs, but there are a few Java and general things tossed in as well.

The top ten most influential (Unix) technical strategies today
We are involved with four out of the top ten. Cool. Paul Murphy -- "And number one? Sun's CDDL license and the mutual non aggression pact among patent holders signing it." Others included ZFS, DTrace, and Coolthreads.

Great FISL pic from OpenSolaris engineer Steve Lau.

Solaris on EFI (iMac)
Shudong Zhou on putting Solaris on the new Intel iMac booting from EFI.

Why open source works for Solaris
"The biggest, most obvious, and generally in your face, strategic enabler here is Sun's community development license...." -- Paul Murphy

Nemo Project - Chairman's Award for Innovation
Congratulations to Nemo Project team members Eric Cheng, Nicolas Droux, Carol Gayo, Darrin Johnson, and Sunay Tripathi for your Chairman's Award!

Use Solaris, Save 30 Minutes
"We do not require antivirus software on computers running Solaris OS -- the only thing we will need to get is the MAC Address info and Computer name." -- National Science Foundation IT Help Central.

Catch Andy Bechtolsheim's Stanford Lecture
Andy Bechtolsheim video from Stanford.

EDS and Sun work together on deploying Solaris Containers
Joost Pronk talks EDS and Solaris Containers.

Dtrace training
John Gardner thinks highly of Brandon Gregg's DTrace class. I'm looking forward to meeting Brandon some day. I've heard so many good things about him from so many people. I met him -- digitally -- when he came into the OpenSolaris pilot program.

Solaris in China Universities
"When the semester ends, over 5000 college students would have studied the best operating system in the world, maybe building few new flavors with the source code from OpenSolaris." -- Sin-Yaw Wang

OpenSolaris Curricula Workshop: Peking University
From Joey Guo: OpenSolaris Curricula Workshop in Peking University. "During the two-day workshop, totally 27 professors from 19 universities has participated in the discussions ...11 universities have committed to use OpenSolaris Plugin at Spring semester

OpenSolaris Curricula Workshop: South China University of Technology
From Joey Guo: OpenSolaris Curricula Workshop at South China University of Technology. "During the workshop, 5 universities in Guangzhou city committed to integrate OpenSolaris Plugin materials into OS curricula at Spring Semester"

Q&A: Sun Microsystems' Jonathan Schwartz
Really long -- and really good -- Q&A with Schwartz in Forbes. What I find most fascinating about this piece is the different perspectives held by the two people involved. See if you can spot it.

NearWalden » My new gig
Dave Douglas, Sun's new VP of Eco Responsibility. He lives in Concord, Mass., near Walden Pond. I used to live near there, too, and swam many summers at Walden. I used to swim the entire length. Took forever, but it was a great workout.

Sun Microsystems Names Vice President of Eco-Responsibility
"Sun is working to shine a light on the environment and let customers know we're not asking them to compromise. The truth is, faster can be cooler, better can be cleaner, and cheaper can be greener." -- Greg Papadopoulos

Sun creates new VP for eco-friendly products
"Sun has created a new VP post for Eco-Responsibility, reflecting the company's strategy to focus on environmental friendliness as a competitive differentiator. David Douglas will return to Sun to take up the position."

Think Green -- Bike to JavaOne
More along Sun's eco direction: " Sun has partnered with the San Francisco Bike Coalition to offer a free "Bike Valet" service Monday to Thursday from 8:00 a.m.- 7:00 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in front of the Moscone Center South Hall."

The Java Platform
John Clingan follows up on his Open Source Java blog.

The End-to-end argument meets ZFS
A comparison of ZFS to the Saltzer, Reed, and Clark paper (End to End Arguments in System Design). "ZFS applies the end-to-end principle to file system design." -- Bill Sommerfeld

China's Sichuan Province: Images
Peter Memishian has some really nice images from China.

Clearview Updates
Nice Clearview update from Peter Memishian: "I'm also happy to report that we will shortly be making builds of the Clearview gate available to the OpenSolaris community. These early-access bits will include everything mentioned above."

Linux kernel 'getting buggier,' leader says
"The way an individual can get their code into the kernel is by sending it to me. I will buffer it in my (mm) tree and send it to Linus." -- Andrew Morton, the lead maintainer of the Linux production kernel

Byte and Switch - Sun Claims Benchmark Lead

Sun Down
"Sun cut the value of Solaris steeply by turning it into an open-source operating system." -- Daniel Lyons. Actually, Solaris is a viable competitor again due to open source, porting to x86/x64, and specific technologies in Solaris 10. All three are equally important, and all three have increased the value of Solaris.

Sun's transition has been a smooth one
The recent open sourcing of Solaris and freeware offerings of Sun Java Studio Enterprise and Sun Java Creator have indicated the extent of the new game since Open Source Software entered the frame." -- Michael Azoff, Butler Group

McNealy's Sunset, Schwartz's Sunrise
There are a lot of interesting quotes in this article. Here are a few:

"Since its rise and fall during the dot-com boom-bust era, Sun has been an organization in constant transition,” says Stephen O’Grady, analyst at RedMonk. “But over the past year, they have charted a new path with OpenSolaris...."

"They continue to have a split brain on Linux,” says Gordon Haff, principal IT adviser at Illuminata in Nashua, N.H. "They know it’s important for their Intel-based servers, but they have fundamentally chosen to make Solaris their core environment. They say Linux is important, but they are thinking, 'We would rather be selling Solaris.'" Not that a strategy involving Linux and OpenSolaris on SPARC and Intel servers is necessarily a bad thing. The yearlong OpenSolaris project, according to some, has generated much more interest than analysts initially predicted. "An open-source Solaris community is critical to the product’s future because it enables Sun to have very engaged discussions with its partners, its users and the development community at large," says Stephen Walli, vice president of Open Source Development Strategy at Optaros, a Boston-based consultancy that focuses on open-source technology and integration. "These are the people who can take Solaris and OpenSolaris to the next level."

Sun is working "true to the spirit"
Alan DuBoff responds to Novell's  Ron Hovsepian.

DTrace at JavaOne 2006
DTrace challenge at JavaOne again this year.

Solaris Performance Challenge at JavaOne

Hey IBM, What's the Solaris logo doing in there?
"I had the pleasure of participating in the Server Blade Summit last week in Garden Grove, CA representing the Solaris OS in.... drum roll please....the IBM booth!" -- Neha Sampat, Solaris Marketing

Scripting and services top Sun software chief's list
"It may be in the future, Solaris simply knows how to do something ... you don't need something to happen to make it act. We own the platforms and the technology to make this happen at a native and a metal level." -- Rich Green

Gosling: Java source code already available
"The cell phone is tomorrow's desktop." -- James Gosling. Cool. I can't stand lugging desktops and laptops around all over the place. They are heavy and they are expensive. I'm happy for them to eventually just die off.

Sun's Big Open-Source Bet
An attack on Sun and OpenSolaris from Stuart Cohen, CEO of the Open Source Development Labs. So much in this article is so completely wrong. Will probably have to give this one its very own blog post.

The Alethiometer: Sun's Big Open-Source Bet
Stephen Harpster responds to Stuart Cohen (OSDL) and his factually incorrect BusinessWeek article.

The Cape Town crusader
"Mark Shuttleworth has transformed the Debian community by putting his money where his mouth is. The result is Ubuntu, but why was it started, where is it going in the future, and what does its success mean for Debian?"

Solar Power
OpenSolaris distributions reviewed in LinuxFormat Magazine

Three Tech Companies Draw Up Strategies For a New Direction
"Wall Street likes a "turnaround story," and that is exactly what Sun is working hard to become. That's in contrast to Microsoft and Intel, which seem destined merely to keep chugging along." -- Lee Gomes, Wall Street Journal

Schwartz’s haircut feels the heat
Check out the quote from the PR "executive" in this article. It's pretty funny.

The right way for Sun to deal with Wall Street
Paul Murphy: "So here's my humble advice on dealing with them: do a management LBO at maybe $5.50 to six bucks now, wait about a year, and do an IPO at something well north of $40."

Blog O’ Matty: Reasons why people are switching from Solaris to Linux
Matty blogged about some bad experiences he's had with Solaris. He also posted to the OpenSolaris discuss list. Bonnie and I answered #8 (here, here) in his post and asked for some information so we could help him. We'll get him all patched up.

Solaris to/from Linux?
Peter Tribble responds to some of Matty's other points.

Sun brings back another ex-exec
Rich Green returns.

Former Sun Micro veteran returns to run software business
Wall Street watching. Jonathan taps Green.


Wednesday Apr 26, 2006

Some More Scott and Jonathan Links

Seems like another busy media day for Scott and Jonathan. Reading all this coverage over the last two days has been interesting. I have a feeling there will be a lot more as the dust settles, don't you?

Sun users offer advice to new CEO Schwartz
Neal Tisdale, praised Schwartz's selection. "I think it's a great change," said Tisdale, vice president of software development at the Atlanta-based subsidiary of Siemens Power Generation.

Sun: Same song, second verse?
Bill Zeitler, IBM's systems/technology group: "I think the move to OpenSolaris has been a good one. The move to open up their portfolio to Opteron and away from Sparc and moderate their investments there is a smart thing strategically." That's IBM talking up OpenSolaris there.

Sun's chiefs on the hot seat
"If you're an engineer or you're a technologist, you want to come to a place that appreciates technology and engineering. This is one of the places that you go do it." -- Schwartz

One rises, one sets / New generation, but same vision, for Sun CEO
Crawford Del Prete of IDC: "I think Jonathan has shown that he understands the multiple aspects of Sun's extremely complex business and he has shown that he can be engaging with customers."

New Sun CEO Is Unconventional, Controversial
"When directors at Hewlett-Packard Co. saw a need for a new chief executive officer, they recruited Mark Hurd, a button-down operations specialist from NCR Corp. who is now overhauling H-P's sales strategy. Rival Sun Microsystems Inc., by contrast, promoted a brainy insider who promises to stay the computer maker's maverick course."

Analysts Seek Turnaround Strategy From Sun
"It was under Schwartz that Sun Solaris, considered by some to be the gold standard of operating systems, became a free download." And it became open source, too. Let's not forget that part.

When I First Met Scott...
Jonathan talks about Scott.

McNealy--an engineer's witty patron
"McNealy has been the down-to-earth face of the Valley's engineers -- more comfortable in jeans and sneakers and more apt to talk about golf and ice hockey than fabulous vacations and yachts."

Langberg: McNealy was pushed out because he had lost credibility
"I hope McNealy continues to serve as the company's public face. He's always been a nightmare for the PR department, telling reporters exactly what he thinks and producing great quotes." Cute. But I'm not sure the article really substantiates the headline.

Why a new CEO is right, Wall St. is wrong and America needs more jails
Scott: "It allows me to go do what I want to do, which is working with the US government, Japan and our top 20 accounts."

McNealy's greatest hits (wisecracks)
Great little video.

Analysis: All eyes on Schwartz to turn Sun around
“Sun still has the influence -- don’t count them out yet." -- Joe Wilcox, JupiterResearch

Goodbye, Mr. McNealy
"McNealy wasn't just an industry giant, he changed the IT world forever ... Let us never forget, that without Scott McNealy we would have neither the Internet nor the open source that powers so much of it. -- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

McNealy--apres moi, you'll be bored silly
"Unlike, oh, 99.9 percent of the white-bread phonies who present themselves as corporate leaders, McNealy was the real deal when it came to leadership." -- Charles Cooper

Sun's New Boss: The Same as the Old Boss?
"This is not about how we take a whack to headcount," Schwartz said. "The goal is to make sure we focus on top-line growth and increasing the value of our shares."

Sun Microsystems' Big Changes
"The company had its woes, but Sun has been a fountain of original and innovative thinking over the years." -- Dan Gillmor

Don't Blame Scott
An obnoxious piece.

Tags: sun jonathan-schwartz scott-mcnealy

Saturday Apr 22, 2006

Competitive Attacks

Since we launched almost a year ago, I've been amazed that OpenSolaris has not been attacked that much in the press by Sun's competitors. Before we launched, sure, we were attacked a lot, but since we opened our code -- and have been regularly releasing code ever since -- the engineers and developers have been doing the talking and that conversation has been based on work, not spin. And I think the results speak for themselves, don't you? Personally, I think this is extraordinary. People still take shots at Sun (hell, that's sport these days), but OpenSolaris doesn't seem to be a target -- which is great. I think we are slowly earning our credibility in an understated way as we just go about our business of opening more code, implementing an open development model, and building a community.

This experience has transformed my views of marketing, engineering, communications, media, community development, corporate competitive strategies, and executive communications -- all of which intersect occasionally and sometimes even overlap (which is sometimes good and sometimes bad) on any large project. Before this job I specialized in competitive PR, which means I attacked and responded a lot -- just like politicians twisting facts and verbally assaulting each other every day in the media with the support of legions of irrational partisans. But I also specialized in getting sick to my stomach when we were attacked by competitors and when I was directed to attack back. I used anger to fight back, and I fought very, very hard. I hated it. It did nothing but cause pain. And I felt that the so-called positive PR benefits were trivial and fleeting at best. Dumb choice of careers if you are not into that sort of thing, I realize, but that's long over now.

Well, I think I've finally detoxed because when I read this recent attack on OpenSolaris -- Open Solaris a source of contention -- I didn't get sick at all. I didn't get angry. I just laughed. True, I'm not in marketing anymore, so it's not my job to potentially respond to these sorts of things, but for a long time I felt the attacks deeply and responded to many of them. The truth is that the vast majority of attacks in the press are so unsophisticated and extreme that they are pretty easy to undermine. The mistake many companies make is to attack back so hard that they draw yet more competitive attacks in the press. And around they go. The best attacks, on the other hand, leave no fingerprints whatsoever. Those are the ones that can absolutely be devastating to an organization. However, this particular attack in question is, well, just embarrassing for the attacker. So that's why I laughed. I mean, read the article. How could you not laugh, right? Dennis, Ben, Stephen, James, and Stephen all dive into the specifics of why the attacker is so completely wrong. I can't really add any substance to their arguments, so there's not much for me to say about the article's itself. But what interests me even more is this -- what generated this attack? Why now? Did the attacker just decide to attack on the spot? Was he prompted? Was he set up? Was it planned by executive support staff or marketing and PR staff? Was an unknown third party involved and behind it? What result was expected?

I'd love to see the briefing document on this one. Wouldn't you?


Sunday Apr 16, 2006

A Blog is Essential?

There's much to agree with and disagree with in this Boston Globe article -- Blogs 'essential' to a good career.

''For your career, a blog is essential," says Phil van Allen, a faculty member of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

''It's the new public relations and it's the new home page. Instead of a static home page, you have your blog," he said. It's a way to let people know what you are thinking about the field that interests you.

Sure, I get that blogs can be used as a PR tool and that you can blog and link your way to new heights of popularity and a new career. No question about it. But it's you doing that, not the blog. You have earned it, not your blog. The blog is just one (albeit powerful) syndication tool.

But is this tool of blogging "essential" for your career? What about those who don't blog but who are seriously successful and who have earned deep credibility within their communities? I see these people all over the place. I don't know about all this. I think the marketing people are making too much of this in this article. Personally, I'm becoming more interested in the non-bloggers at this point -- the ones who earn credibility without publicity. Those people fascinate me. What's the quality supporting their success? Whatever it is I bet it transcends time and tool.

Back to a few more quotes from the articles ...

Employers regularly Google prospective employees to learn more about them. Blogging gives you a way to control what employers see, because Google's system works in such a way that blogs that are heavily networked with others come up high in Google searches.

And coming up high is good: ''People who are more visible and have a reputation and stand for something do better than people who are invisible," says Catherine Kaputa, branding consultant and author of ''Blogging for Business Success."

But pick your topics carefully and have a purpose. ''The most interesting blogs are focused and have a certain attitude," says van Allen. ''You need to have a guiding philosophy that you stick to. You cannot one minute pontificate on large issues of the world and the next minute be like, 'My dog died.'"

Note the word "control" in the second sentence of the first graph. Interesting perspective, eh? Also, the bit about the people who are more visible with a so-called reputation doing better than the ones who are "invisible" is way too restrictive to be a credible statement. Just because someone is not in the public eye or a blog star doesn't mean he or she is invisible and lacks a reputation. That's one of the most ridiculous things I've heard about blogging. And the last paragraph advising that you not blog about "large issues of the world" and then also talk about personal issues is pejorative at best. Why not? Who says? Perhaps I want to know that someone's dog died, what the heck is wrong with that?

Aha. Ok, that's pretty much it. There are also eight tips to being a good blogger. I'd add one more: (9) If you are blogging strictly to enhance your career and using branding, marketing, and PR tactics, your blog may not earn as much credibility as you think. Remember, many people can easily see through blogs used simply as vehicles to publicize. Sometimes it's really quite obvious, too.


Thursday Apr 13, 2006

Reality PR

I see BusinessWeek has a bit on  Eric Dezenhall, author of Nail 'Em! It's an excellent book about brutally competitive attack and defend PR tactics. Actually, it guts the PR industry's silly tactics of press releases, briefings, messaging, education, and influence and replaces them with reality. It's a devastating book. I have it on my shelf right along with a couple of other classics in this area: Rules for Radicals and The Prince. There are many such books, of course, if you like this sort of thing. Any good PR pro has these books practically memorized. They rarely call it PR, though.


Wednesday Mar 29, 2006

Sun: The Web 1.0 Company?

Kathy Sierra talks about applying "Web 2.0" principles to managers. Here's a snip:

One dramatic difference between mature tech companies and the Web 2.0 startups is the way employees are managed. Or rather, the fact that they are not "managed." Most Web 1.0 companies (like, say, my former employer Sun... they put the dot in dotcom, remember?) are not only too big, but their management practices are just too old school (and not in a retro hip way) to foster a company culture that matches the culture of the new community/user-centric Web 2.0.

Interesting perspective on many levels.

First, if Kathy is implying that Sun is "mature" I have some news for her. We're not. That's what makes it fun to work here (even though I wish we would mature a little, actually). Second, why is the marketing term "Web 2.0" only used to characterize startups? Much of Sun (and probably other large companies) is very Web 2.0 and has been for decades. Third, why are the so-called Web 1.0 companies seen so pejoratively? Is absolutely everything "old school" bad? Fourth, Sun's "the-dot-in-dot-com" advertising is only about billion years old now. The distinction between that Sun and today's Sun is rather gigantic. Fifth, if Sun's management is so old school why are they spending millions and millions and millions of dollars to open up pretty much everything we have around here specifically to build communities? I mean, really, we are talking about thousands and thousands and thousands of hardware and software engineers leading, contributing to, building, and participating in open communities of one sort of another all over the world. All of those engineers have managers, and those mangers are directly responsible for investing resources in all this community building we are doing. At the development level, Sun's company culture is very much based on the values of community. And more and more of the mangers -- and executives -- are blogging quite openly along with the other two thousand or so Sun bloggers. That doesn't sound old school to me.

Now, do we have more to do? Yep. Sure do. There are still many Sun people not yet participating openly in any of these several dozen communities, but more and more are every day. Do we have some managers who are a bit on the conservative side? Sure. It's a big place. That's normal for any large organization. But I don't see them controlling the direction of the company anymore, and that's critical. A few months ago, Jonathan spoke about the changes -- and opportunities -- that managers at Sun are experiencing. But, to be honest, I'm happy that some elements of the company are more conservative. Sometimes it's necessary to integrate the best of your stable core into your more dynamic edge. Or maybe that's the other way around. Regardless. When running a company of this size and complexity that engages sophisticated and demanding customers, I think it's responsible to encourage a healthy mix of all types of people.

I'm sorry, Kathy, I just don't experience the Sun you see. Every day, I pretty much live in the right side of your chart -- the Manager 2.0 section. I really like your chart, by the way. I think I'll use it to start some conversations with my colleagues. Except I don't know what the "Hollywood model" is, and I'm not sure how that is juxtaposed with the "Hierarchical structure." Perhaps I'm too old school. :)


Thursday Mar 09, 2006

PR, Press, Bloggers

Well, this one is worth a read: Wal-Mart Enlists Bloggers in P.R. Campaign. I don't get it. Why would a top PR agency like this put itself in such an unbelievably compromising position between bloggers and the press?

Robert Scoble is right:

... for companies thinking of getting in this space: why don’t you just blog? That’s the best way to get your point of view out there. Hidden agendas will be found out eventually (and there are plenty of them, particularly in comment sections -- how do you know that anonymous commenter wasn't paid by a competitor of mine? You don’t.)

Another way to look at it? Join, don’t use. Ask yourself: are you communicating or trying to manipulate others into communicating?

Isn't that obvious? Especially that last point?

PR agencies have started pitching me to write stuff about their clients -- which is wild, I must say. Why me? I always respond to their queries asking why they pitched me, but they never respond back. Unlike many bloggers, I don't think that blogging marks the end of the PR business. Sure, the traditionalists may get disrupted, but blogging is redefining PR, not killing it. It's distributing it, actually. And blogging offers innovative PR people an opportunity to contribute to conversations, rather than just shouting messages at conversations hoping some will stick. And by getting involved, I don't mean pitching bloggers. I mean actually getting involved and blogging right along with everyone else and earning the right to participate.

Friday Feb 10, 2006


Fascinating piece here from Stephen Shankland -- Sun's next goal: A Linux ecosystem. I love the assertive and positive comments from Sun, and I love the skepticism from competitors and others. I'm not saying that honest skepticism isn't called for in situations like this, but what this article demonstrates quite clearly is that people are responding to Sun, not the other way around. That is what has changed around here. Anyway, here are some of my favorite quotes from the article (in no particular order):

"The time for Linux on Sparc as any kind of major market phenomenon has come and gone -- over five years ago now, maybe longer," Illuminata analyst Jonathan Eunice said. "It just serves to split the available development resources."

Isn't that what some said about OpenSolaris?

"To be successful, Solaris has to go beyond Sparc. But also to be successful, Sparc has to go beyond Solaris," said David Yen, who as executive vice president of Sun's Sparc server group is trying to make the chip family "the new industry standard."

Really nice quote. Solaris has been transformed due to specific innovations in Solaris 10, the porting of the system to other platforms, and the community building effort around OpenSolaris. It seems that SPARC is headed along a similar path. Next year will be very interesting.

"They're late, they don't have a particular price-performance advantage or any particular reason the Linux market would move there," Don Jenkins, vice president of marketing for HP's Business Critical Server group, said of Sun's move. "It strikes me as a pretty daunting task."

Also a nice quote. If there's one PR "key message" that competitors have tossed our way over the last few years it's that one right there: "They're late." Late to XML, late to Web Services, late to open source, blablabla.

"That's 'old think,'" [Jonathan Schwartz] said when asked if Sun had enough energy and resources to build Linux and BSD ecosystems for Sparc. "Open-source communities are a much bigger player today than vendors in creating ecosystems. So whether Sun is the lead or a supporter is less relevant than answering the question, 'Is there customer interest?' Given the 5-to-1 price/performance benefit of running Web loads on Niagara versus Xeon, interest exists from a broad variety of customers to migrate existing Linux-Xeon deployments over to Linux or BSD on Niagara."

Again. Asserting the positive, instead of crying about the past.

Still, Sun has no shortage of gumption. "Linux on Sparc is dead serious," President Jonathan Schwartz said in an e-mail interview. "I'm personally talking to leaders in the community. BSD, too."

Gumption. Now that's something I don't mind being associated with at all.

Tuesday Feb 07, 2006

links for 2006-02-07

Sunday Feb 05, 2006

links for 2006-02-05

Sunday Jan 29, 2006

links for 2006-01-29

Saturday Jan 07, 2006

10 Lessons from Blogging

I've been blogging for a couple of years now, and it has changed absolutely everything -- thanks to these guys. So I thought I'd jot down some things that I have learned or observed. Ten seems like a reasonable number for now, so this is what I have ...
  1. I blog for one reason -- it's fun. All the benefits grow from that one very personal experience.
  2. I pay little attention to the audience. I simply assume no one reads me. My audience is me.
  3. I've made many new friends via my blog, and I'm profoundly grateful.
  4. I've pissed off some people via my blog, and I'm very sorry.
  5. Negative comments -- the extreme personal attacks, I mean -- hurt deeply.
  6. Positive comments -- praise, constructive criticism, helpful information, connections -- are wonderful.
  7. Writing blogs requires absolutely no work whatsoever. It's stupidly simply on almost every level.
  8. Blog hit lists and credibility/authenticity rankings remind me of my PR days. They are meaningless popularity contests.
  9. Blogging has reminded me that I'm actually assertive and an entrepreneur at heart. I had forgotten. 
  10. BSC pervades everything I do at Sun and serves as the single most important personal empowerment tool I've ever experienced.
That's it.

Tuesday Nov 29, 2005

Criticism of PR Out of Line

I'm noticing more people taking cheap shots at the PR community regarding blogs. It's fashionable to criticize PR, but I think some of it is out of line. Here are two bits -- virtual identical -- from two recent articles:

From Does Your Company Belong in the Blogosphere? (Harvard Business School, Nov 28):

"Don't let the PR department write your blog. Bloggers will sniff it out, and when they do, you will lose all credibility."

From Spreading the Word: Corporate evangelists recruit customers who love to create buzz about a product (US News & World Report, Dec 5):

"Start blogs and podcasts to humanize the people behind the company's too-opaque walls. One caveat: PR spinmeisters should be forbidden from being involved."

So, just kick the guy and run, right? How brave. Look, I've been critical of traditional marketing and public relations because you can't use traditional techniques on modern, open, community-based projects. That old marketing paradigm is going away. Also, although I'm no longer in PR/marketing, I have close friends who are, and many of the services they perform cross nicely over my own community building activities. In fact, the areas of potential collaboration are significant, and some of us are trying to work together to bridge what has become a substantial divide in style and substance. However, as critical as I've been, I've also encouraged my PR/marketing friends to assert themselves, to fight back, to join the community, to blog, to engage in open conversations on open lists, and to earn their way along with the rest of us in this new world of community communications.

But to ban the PR department from blogs -- as suggested by the quotes above -- misses the point entirely. Instead of banning PR from being involved and from writing your blog, why not encourage them to participate and write their own blogs? Wouldn't that be a more helpful and consistent position? The owners of these two quotes are already advocating that companies start blogs to open up yet they simultaneously suggest (one rather directly) that an entire group of people be excluded. How very friendly of them. I think the critics are afraid of the competition, to be honest.

Monday Nov 28, 2005

PR Call to Action

Check out Steve Rubel's call to action for the PR industry "to start using social media technologies." I like it. He focuses on action, not talk. PR is part of a company's marketing operations, though, so I'd include marketing in this call to action, too. And community relations, as well, because many times community managers live in marketing but they are just as likely to live in engineering. Either way, we need to be doing our community management (relations, marketing, evangelism, advocacy, facilitation, or whatever) from within the community, not from the outside. Anyway, I'll be following TheNewPR/Wiki closely as the PR community wrestles with this trend. The pressure is clearly on traditional marketing and public relations to adapt. Heck, even US News is writing about all this in Spreading the Word: Corporate evangelists recruit customers who love to create buzz about a product. (Sun's Simon Phipps is quoted in the piece, too).

Tuesday Oct 11, 2005

OpenSolaris: Lessons Learned

As Sun opens more of its software, some people from other projects around the company have been asking me what we've learned from OpenSolaris. They'd like to benefit from our team's experience, and we are more than happy to help. So, here is the beginning of my "lessons learned" (in no particular order right now). Consider this a working draft of my initial thoughts. They are all personal, so you may or may not agree. I already listed some lessons learned from the OpenSolaris Pilot Program, so these lessons grew from those lessons. If you've been involved in OpenSolaris, and you'd like to share what you've learned or comment on these, please feel free to contribute. I'm going to keep building this list by adding new lessons and descriptions, so this entry will grow until I stop learning. Which means it's going to get really, really big. Since I'll be editing this post consistently, I put a link -- Lessons Learned -- in the right nav bar.

OpenSolaris: Lessons Learned

1. Think in terms of collaboration, not feedback – the community is not your focus group.

This issue came up occasionally during the early pilot days last year. We were supposed to be building a community, but sometimes we saw the pilot as separate from our internal program team. So, you always heard something like this: "Go get some feedback from the pilot." In other words, we are in here ... go out there and get their feedback ... and bring it back in here for evaluation. The problem is that you get feedback from a focus group, not a community. The culture of a community seems based on direct participation in the creation of something, not getting feedback on something when it's already done. Now, as a practical matter, many people in the community do offer feedback along the way, and that's great because people participate at different levels. But if you view the entire community as simply a feedback mechanism, you've missed it. If you want a community, you need to participate as an equal and involve people early.

2. Encourage people to join the community and work from within the community – all groups, not just the engineering implementation team.

Many times people asked me to send their stuff to the community. Plans. Messages. Whatever. After I learned lesson #1, though, I started telling  people that if they wanted their stuff sent to the community they should join the community and engage in a conversation about their stuff. If it's good enough, it will fly. If not, oh, well. Try again. So, anyone who touches Solaris in any way whatsoever should join the community -- marketing, service, docs, engineering, etc -- and do their business from within the community by involving the community. Everyone has something of value to contribute. Otherwise, there's an "us" and "them" mentality that hinders the process of building a community. Even now, more and more teams throughout the company are engaging the OpenSolaris community. Which is excellent. I've said it many times since joining this project ... OpenSolaris is transforming Sun.

3. Encourage debates, but ignore flames and competitive attacks (but expect them).

I've bounced back and forth on some of these.

First, flames. I don't like dousing flames on mail lists. If people want to have a knife fight in front of thousands of people on list, I'm going to pull up a chair and watch the show. Every time I've tried to assertively put out a flame, I just got burned or ignored. Flames come and go. Don't contribute to them, but don't worry too much, either. Just try to increase the number of quality people on the list and the flamers will have less to say.

Second, debates. These are excellent, but they require that you educate some people that debates are normal and healthy and generate new ideas (as long as they don't degenerate into flames, of course). This is generally not an issue at Sun because we debate everything to death anyway. So, most people are used to it. Some people, however, may be uneasy about debating across the firewall. Take it slow and stick to what you know.

Third, competitive attacks. Now this one drives me nuts because there really is no right answer for all circumstances, and I've never -- absolutely never -- been convinced otherwise. It all depends on your style, your belief, your skill set, your guts, your resources, and the competitive situation you find yourself in. I've played all sides of the fence on this -- the sides generally being (1) ignore them, (2) attack back ten times harder like Al Capone, (3) attack back but via third parties, so there are no fingerprints, (4) simply correct the FUD dispassionately and move on like you are above it all. They all work well in some situations and fail miserably in others. My current thinking is that competitive fights in public forums burn too much energy, so ignoring is probably the best option in the long run -- as long as you are moving fast in asserting your own agenda (or project, or whatever). Focus more on your positive, and less on reacting to their negative. OpenSolaris generated a lot of competitive response because it made some people nervous out there, and I spent a lot of time defending this project in my blog. It burned me out, to be honest, so I'm more included to either ignore a direct attack, make fun of it, or deflect it to talk about an issue without even actually responding directly.

4. Focus on people writing and talking about code. It's all about the code. Don't fool yourself.

The single most import element here is the code. In fact, what strikes me most about this project is just how much the code pervades every conversation I hear and read. It's all about the code. Great developers get together around great code, and the conversation grows directly from how involved everyone is.

5. If you have an NDA pilot program, run it as one team, not two.

We could have easily made our internal implementation team part of the NDA pilot program itself with one list for communication. One team, basically. For me, it became confusing ... this part is "internal" ... that part is "external" ... be quiet here ... open up over there. In retrospect, it wasn't necessary for most issues I was involved with, but I suppose we had to learn this slowly so I'm ok with it now. We're opening more and more teams as we go, and that's great. And I'm actually un-subscribing from various internal lists because I don't want the traffic. I'm only interested in open conversations. Things move faster in the open, anyway.

6. Use the NDA to define your pilot identity and share everything with your nascent community.

We could have done a better job at this one, but again, perhaps we needed to experience it slowly. There was no model for what we were doing, after all. But I figure, if you have an NDA, your pilot community is locked in, so you may as well open up to them, right? In some areas were were remarkably open -- to the point of really stretching that NDA, too -- but we could have gone further here in other areas. As it is, we learned a great deal from the pilot experience, and that program helped change this company. I wanted to do more, though. I guess my point is, don't be afraid to go further than we did.

7. Dump internal lists or make them public.

We still have a lot of internal project lists. Some are necessary because a given project is still internal, but they are migrating, so I'm not concerned. Other internal lists are just hold overs from the closed cathedral days. Trying to close these closed lists is somewhat challenging, too. But they serve only to distract people from the openness of the project, and they keep the conversation fragmented. So, if a conversation is not confidential, get it out in the open. If it is confidential, keep it on a properly marked internal list and keep the number of people on that list small. I have zero interest on being on confidential lists, by the way.

8. Transparency increases speed in most cases because it shines a light on internal politics.

Some people are concerned that dealing with large numbers of developers and users in a community will slow things down. All that extra email! This may happen initially, but in many instances transparency actually increases the speed at which things can operate. This is anti-intuitive, but I'm convinced it's true if you give it a chance. Perhaps it's because transparency reduces the internal politics by shining a light on the trivial things we sometimes focus on. Perhaps the openness naturally attracts the people who are specifically interested in a given project, so you weed out the non-performers without offending anyone. I don't know. All I know is that for my activities, working in the open is faster and it's not even close. NOTE: This issue fascinates me more than any other in this list. I'd especially like to hear about what you have experienced.

9. Make core governance and development decisions before opening even if you have not fully implemented the system.

We didn't launch with a lot of initial infrastructure for co-development, which made things somewhat difficult for the non-Sun community members. However, external community members can search the bug database, report bugs, offer fixes, and request sponsors to putback that code. And they are. Which is great. And more is coming, obviously. But the point is to think these things through (remember: the code is the most important part of the project) before opening, so you can lead strongly through the implementation process when you are open. We have been planning for co-development all along. We specifically wanted the broader, post-pilot community involved in the decisions since the pilot community was small (by necessity). We set up the Community Advisory Board (CAB) to develop an OpenSolaris Charter and Governance (both currently drafts on the CAB's open list), and there's an internal team (with three CAB members participating) working on specifying the actual co-development infrastructure. People want this part of the project to move faster (and we do, too). We hear you.

This issue is also important because you want to know what kind of community to build. Some people asked me really early in the project -- like pre-pilot early -- what the OpenSolaris community would look like. They asked for a prediction, basically. Yah, right. They'd ask this -- over and over again -- before we had a license, before we had business model, before we had a CAB, before we had a Charter and Governance, before we had a co-development plan. Nice, eh? I ignored them, basically. I simply just keep on saying that we are transforming the Solaris market into a community, and that community would consist of Solaris developers, system administrators, and users from Sun's customers, ISVs, and partners. That's your community. The key, however, is how would Sun engage, build, and grow that community. To answer that question you have to also answer the governance, license, business model, and infrastructure questions. They are quite directly linked.

10. The conversation is the (Cluetrain) marketing.

It's best to not market to a community from the outside by shouting "messages" at people. Instead, marketers should join the community and participate in the marketing process with the community as co-equals. I think we've done a pretty good job on this one for a corporation. We had a pretty interesting launch with more than 150 Solaris engineers blogging personal tours through their code, and there were dozens and dozens of community blogs that lit up on launch day as well. We've been open about our intentions to open Solaris all along, too. Yes, there was a press conference (pretty traditional), but we had engineers meet the press along with the executives (an improvement). There was no formal press release with quotes, though. Instead, PR sent out what they call a "media advisory" and we tried to keep their pre-briefings down to an absolute minimum. We wanted the blogs to lead, we wanted the code to lead, we wanted the community to lead. For a year, I had advocated no launch at all. I just wanted to open the site when the code was ready, and, well, that's it. The community is already well connected on list and via blogging, and besides, no one would expect that from Sun, right? Some (read: most) people thought I was nuts, of course, but I had no time for a traditional marketing/PR-driven launch on this project. Then Bryan came up with the idea of a blog launch. OpenSolaris would be launched on So, he sold it and went about driving it with Liane. It worked out great, and I'd argue that the OpenSolaris launch was the single most credible thing Sun has done for developers  since I've been at the company. Ok, I'm biased but whatever. So, if you want to do marketing on an open source project, go Cluetrain and join the community.

11. Credibility and reputation grow from involvement, humility, work, and code – not talk.

We did a lot of talking leading up to the opening of Solaris. Too much, actually. I'm glad we were open about our intentions, and we did get some credibility for opening our conversations in the press and in our blogs. But I would have been more comfortable had we launched a little earlier or cut the chat a little along the way. I also think we sometimes confused corporate competitive issues with community building issues. I know I surely did. Also, for a very long time we didn't have much to show; we were running a closed, NDA pilot. It wasn't a real big deal in the end because we knew the code was coming, but if I had to do this all over again ... well, I'd tone it down a little.

12. Focus the project goal and strategy on the opportunity to do something great, not on trying to solve issues common to all products.

Having a strong, clear goal is the way to go. We sometimes churned with lots of little goals that were all good but pretty typical for a corporation. This is one area I think we could have involved the pilot community more. To me, I see the goal for OpenSolaris as being the perfect opportunity to build a community around some really amazing code. Everything grows from that. And I see three groups directly involved: (1) The Sun executives want to expand the Solaris market, drive Solaris into new markets, and sell more systems and services. (2) The Solaris engineers want to engage developers outside the company, share code, and improve an already great system. And (3) the Solaris market/community wants to see the code, optimize applications, contribute to Solaris development, and create ports and distributions of their own. The strategy for all this involves transforming the current Solaris market into the new OpenSolaris community. Sun is opening up and engaging the Solaris community (developers, sys admins, customers, ISVs, partners, universities,  users ...), and we are quite literally enfranchising that community with an open source license, a governance based on merit, and a new co-development infrastructure. I'm trying to put all that into one sentence. :)

13. Be prepared to lead.

Leadership is just as important in community building as it is within a corporate or government structure. It manifests very differently, though. In communities, power seems to be distributed among the people who have earned the credibility because they have done the work. And since these people work transparently everyone knows what they've done. This is not always true in a traditional environment. Also, what I like about the culture of leadership within a community is that leading, following, and learning seem to mix pretty seamlessly. And there's an endless amount of opportunity for those who are willing to work their way up to a leadership position.

14. Don't manage the community like it's just another project. It's not.

A community is special. Treat it that way. Actually, you'll have to since it's not "your" community. Unlike an internal project, you are not paying your community, so you'll have to lead by example. And it's impossible to "manage" a community, so, again, the only way is for managers to join and participate. Manages may have seniority internally, but they have to earn their way externally within the paradigm of the community.

15. There's no substitution for participation.

You can't fake this, so don't try. You are either part of the community and contribute, or you are on the outside looking in. Give it a try. Join the community. Be humble. Learn. Lead in your area of expertise, defer in areas where others are more knowledgeable, and earn your way like everyone else. Trust that someone else will be leading the things that you are not.



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